2019 South Side Questions: Is Jaylen Samuels Back, And How Will That Impact Benny Snell?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.

The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.

How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will Jaylen Samuels play on Monday night, and how will his return impact Benny Snell’s playing time?

The bye week is generally a good thing for teams when it concerns player health, and this year’s bye was kind to the Steelers. They came out of their final game quite banged up, but it looks as though they may be getting every player back healthy—at least among those who are not done for the year.

Among the biggest surprises of the week has been second-year running back Jaylen Samuels, who had his knee scoped a couple of weeks ago, but has been a full participant in practice for the past two days, and appears to be tracking in the direction of participating in the next game.

Even considering the bye week, to miss only one game after a knee scope is pretty much a best-case scenario in terms of recovery time. That one game was a big opportunity, though, for rookie running back Benny Snell, who quadrupled his total touches on the season with 18, including 17 runs and one reception, gaining 89 yards from scrimmage.

No doubt he was hoping to get a longer look while Samuels was shelved, but if he works his way back so quickly, his expanded role as the number two back may be limited to just one game. Or, perhaps he’s shown enough where he would eat more into James Conner’s playing time than his, provided that he remains productive when he does touch the ball.

The first step to finding out what his role will be in a healthy backfield is to get Samuels back. Then we’ll see how many opportunities he gets, and what he does with them.

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